"i'm allergic"

Piper St. Regis
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My birthday cake that I couldn't eat

 He asked if I wanted to share a milkshake. For anyone else, the answer would be an easy yes or no. Not so easy for me - I have a few hidden enemies. Will the ice cream have eggs in it? Will the waitress even know if I asked her? Should I just tell him no? But what if he really wants it? Okay, okay. I'll just say yes, try it, and see what happens.

 I said "sure," and then proceeded to tell him in the most nonchalant way possible that it might cause me to have an allergic reaction, but like, it's totally fine! Like any good boyfriend, he seemed slightly confused as to why I would risk my life for an Oreo milkshake, but I attempted to reassure him (and also myself). I just wanted to seem normal. To seem like the type of girl who could order a milkshake whenever she wanted, and not be the boy in the bubble who had to be sheltered from everything. And so I drank the milkshake. And upon first sip,I knew it had eggs in it. Sweet. I tried to discreetly stop drinking it, and be way more interested in my glass of water. But when my throat started to close up a bit, I knew there was no hiding anything. When my boyfriend asked me if I was okay, I said, “Well, technically no - but I'm fine,” and grabbed a Benadryl from my purse.

 “Oh my god, Piper, I feel so bad,” he said. “I shouldn't have let you drink it.” His eyes watched me for the rest of the meal, as if I was a porcelain doll resting on the edge of a tall shelf. I knew intuitively that I would probably be okay, but how could I explain that to him? For all he knew I was about to drop dead at any second. This is precisely what I always try to avoid: my allergies becoming a burden to those around me. He felt guilty, and I felt guilty that he was guilty. I desperately wished to just be normal, and not have to make a life or death decision over a damn Oreo milkshake.

Unfortunately for me, this was not a stand-alone event. A similar scenario had probably happened hundreds or thousands of times throughout the last 19 years. Wanna try this? No, sorry I can't. Why? And then I proceed with my line that I've perfected (and added to). Well, I'm allergic to all nuts, beans, eggs, shellfish, avocados, and sesame seeds. And like that person, you’re probably thinking something similar to, “Wait so you can't eat [insert food]? That suckssss.” But what generally follows my admission of allergies is pity. People feel bad that I’m deprived of all the fun foods they like to eat, which is understandable. But the problem with pity is that it can make you feel very small.

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The time where i threw up on the sidewalk outside of this nice NYC restaurant because their bread had nuts in it

I’ve spent my entire life fighting this pity. Aside from my allergies, I also have severe asthma and eczema. So I was determined to become a perfect person, in the hopes that people would forget about my ailments. I got straight A’s through senior year (except for one B+ in 4th grade math - still bitter) and even won the prestigious world-renowned Student of the Year award in 5th grade, which my mom still talks about. If you didn’t know me, you probably would have thought I was healthy. And even beyond my glowing good looks :), I never got into trouble, had friends, and spent my time outside of school doing karate, taking piano lessons (which I hated), or dancing. I did everything I could to present a happy, normal front. Anything to show people that I wasn’t a burden.

 

But even all of my efforts couldn’t stop the darkness from creeping in. I would find myself constantly studying into the late hours of the night. My eczema would burn from sweat during ballet, and would oftentimes show through my tights. At my friend’s birthday parties, I had to hold in tears when the cake was being cut, knowing that I would have to shamefully deny a slice. I envied my friends who didn’t have to worry about being asked if their rash was contagious, could eat anything they wanted, and even swim in a pool without worrying if they had lotion with them. And after years of constantly worrying about my conditions, I began to dread and over analyze every social situation. Every new setting was the perfect storm - not only would I likely face something I was allergic to, but I would also have to explain it to other people. My mind seemed to run on 2x speed as I frantically tried to avoid being someone else’s burden.  

The thing is, my allergies aren’t going anywhere. And they’re probably going to have to put lotion on my dead body. But that’s okay. Over the years I’ve come to realize everyone has their own issues - they just have the option not to talk about it. I do still get embarrassed and angry sometimes, but what I have learned, and what I wish I could tell my younger self, is that I’m a fighter. And that even fighters need rest sometimes.

 

My ongoing resolution is to stop fooling myself with fake perfection and ~accept my flaws~. There’s no use in pretending that I won’t have bad days or that my health problems don't exist. I take control of the things I can - like the way I treat myself and others. I wish I could end this with a definite conclusion of how I’ve solved all my problems, but the truth is that I’m still working through it. And if not for anything else, I hold out hope for the days when Oreo milkshakes don’t have eggs in them.